Bent Image Lab Animates Hallmark Sequel
PORTLAND -- Bent Image Lab and Hallmark Channel are excited to present Jingle and Bell’s Christmas Star, the sequel to the critically acclaimed stop-motion production Jingle All the Way. Directed once again by Bent’s Chel White, this is the second stop-motion animated venture between Bent Image Lab and Hallmark after the successful partnership on last year’s Jingle All the Way. Four-time Grammy Award winner Keith Urban sings his rendition of “Jingle Bells” in the holiday special.
“Collaborating with Keith Urban for Jingle and Bell’s Christmas Star sets the stage for a wonderful holiday experience!” says Jodi Schade VP Hallmark Properties/Music Acquisitions and Executive Producer.
Combining three Hallmark storybooks into one, White worked with screenwriter Allan Neuwirth to intertwine the stories into a workable script for the 24 minute special.
“I was tickled when Hallmark came back to do the sequel,” says White. “A lot of people responded favorably to the first show, so it was nice to see the new story not only continues where we left off but also introduces us to two new characters, a city girl named Sofia and her Husky pup Bell. Andrew and Jingle are back too, as well as some of the other characters that we loved from the first special.”
The story starts with Sofia and Bell moving from tropical Palm City to snowy Pineville, where they meet Andrew and Jingle. Andrew and Jingle are excited to welcome their new neighbors, but shy Sofia misses her Palm City home dearly. After a snowstorm keeps Sofia from returning to Palm City for Christmas, Andrew and Jingle find a way to still make her Christmas special.
“Having raised two daughters, I was personally excited to now have a girl as the main character,” says White. “The story itself has a timeless fish-out-of-water theme in which Sofia must navigate her way in an unfamiliar world where she has no friends and old rules don’t apply. Her emotional journey is one I think we can all relate to. That’s what makes the story so appealing.”
One of the main challenges between Jingle and Bell and Jingle All the Way is the increased complexity of both the animation and storyline. Jingle and Bell included many new characters and complicated storm scenes.
“There is a lot more complexity in the animation itself,” says Hallmark’s Product Development Director Kevin Swanson. “The trees and puppet hair blow around, there are multiple characters on set at the same time; it makes me think about the folks doing the animation. You have to have a lot more awareness of what is happening on the set.”
Bent’s art department, led by Art Director Greg Arden, had the opportunity to not just recreate miniature snowy landscapes made of sugar but also the tropical beach sets of Palm City. The tangible materials used included green fur for beach grass, artificial plants cut apart and kludged back together to form yucca plants, and palm trees made from a combination of torn brown paper wrapped around wire for trunks and stiffened green feathers for leaves.
“I always find stop-motion brings you back to a time when Christmas specials and TV shows were done in that old style,” says Bent Executive Producer Ray Di Carlo. “You can have enduring shows that are done in other methods, but stop motion is tactile. You see surfaces; you see light bouncing off of things. To me it is a more deeply rooted emotional experience when you can see light reflecting off of a character’s eyes.”
“The stop-motion animation is still fascinating to me even though this is our second special,” says Hallmark Creative Director and Executive Producer Diana Larson Stuart. “I think that Bent has done a beautiful job. There a lot of things that are pretty tricky to pull off in stop motion and the work they’ve done is seamless.”
After the critical success of Jingle All the Way, both Hallmark and Bent are looking forward to releasing the sequel and airing it in a one-hour block with the original Jingle.